Hello. My name is Heather Marcus. I’m a graduate of the Philadelphia public schools, as are my brother, parents, and grandparents. My parents were both teachers in Philadelphia, and I worked as a teacher for seven years. For the last fifteen years I’ve worked as a school counselor. I’m now a counselor at Masterman and a member of Philly School Counselors United (PSCU). I’m also a Philadelphia resident. I’m here today to talk to you about the fact that our students need more school counselors.
All of you at this table in front of us say, “Yes, kids need more counselors.” But it’s lip service. It doesn’t mean anything anymore. Please don’t hold your breath for us to say, “Hooray! Now all Philly kids will finally, after three years, have at least one full-time counselor at their schools because the district lost in court!” The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) recommends a ratio of one counselor for every 250 students. Northeast High School has 3,200 kids and four full time counselors, not the recommended thirteen counselors. Oh, and by the way, one of the four is currently out on maternity leave with no sub. Masterman has 1,200 students in grades five through twelve and we have three counselors, not the recommended five. Neither school was allocated any extra counselors for next year. At Masterman the counselors are trying to meet the needs of about 800 middle school students AND over 400 high school students at the same time. I’m tired. I’m worn out. I want to give my students so much more, they need and deserve so much more, but there’s not enough time in the day.
For you it’s all theoretical. It’s numbers on paper because you don’t work with students. I do work with students. Real human beings. You say you want kids to have counselors. Kids in the general sense. Now I’ll tell you about some real kids, real situations, but I’ll use fictitious names. I’ve worked with Marguerite, whose mother died earlier this year. And Tyreese, who was just diagnosed with anxiety and depression and his grades are tanking. And Maggie, whose dad doesn’t have a job. Her dad also smokes pot everyday and they don’t have money for food. Marguerite and Tyreese and Maggie are real children who need more counselors, not more lip service. Those are just a few examples, not because I don’t have more, but because I don’t have enough time to tell you more. Just like I don’t have enough time to spend with each of my 400 students.
You’re doing a disservice to all of the students in Philadelphia by not providing them with enough school counselors. You want 100% of the students to read on grade level and graduate college and career ready? They need counselors to meet their non-academic needs so they can focus on school. They need counselors to help them with their college and trade school applications and financial aid paperwork. You don’t mention school counselors even once in your Action Plan for the district. How does that make any sense? For the last three years the counselors have spoken to you about this. School counselors are professionals who are trained to help students with their personal, academic, and career needs. We also have a passion for supporting and guiding students, and truly love our jobs because we make a difference in students’ lives everyday. So while you continue to give lip service to the children in Philadelphia and SAY that they need more school counselors, I’ll continue to FIGHT for our children until you figure out a way to put more certified school counselors in the schools so we can help our children prepare for the future and realize their full potential.